Adonis Diaries

Archive for October 19th, 2008

Rainbow over the Levant: End notes and Post notes (fiction story)

End notes

Mount Lebanon continued to flourish at a diminished rate.  And while the Mamulks of Egypt refrained from further military campaigns, because the expenses of expeditionary forces had no financial return in Mount Lebanon, the authority and unity of the Levant’s governments were disintegrating: prompted mainly by the practical and pragmatic average leaders who responded to the sobering realization that they would never be allowed to be a significant political force in the Middle East. 

Mount Lebanon reverted as a province to the Viceroy of Tripoli, with the same original conditions of self administration, and gradually succumbed under the traditional feudal and confessional system.  Many Emirs were successful in strengthening their hold by offering many carrots than whips, and maintaining a sort of false elective position in municipalities.

Asaad married a daughter of the Emir Shehab tribe in the Chouf; Wujdan married into the family of a prominent feudal lord of Abi Lamaa in the Capital Mtein, and Jacob the son of Noura and Antoun married from the Emir Maan tribe in Deir Kamar in the Chouf.  

Noura never returned to Lebanon and did not attend her son’s wedding, but instituted centers of learning in Rome and Florence, which were later to be acquired by the Maronite clergy.  Samar was the official administrator of an ambulatory circus/theater business and Mariam married her lover Ignatios and took to editing the theatrical pieces submitted to her for the circus.  Mariam occasionally directed and produced drama shows for the exclusive benefit of her adoptive daughter company.

The consequences for the success and ultimate failure of the insurgency movement were not insignificant.  In local politics, the Emirs and feudal Lords understood that the citizens in Mount Lebanon could not be governed is the same heavy handed tactics, by simple decrees from any Emir as was commonly done by the Viceroys.  Most of the rules and regulations were enforced because of agreements among the main warlords and the clergy; even the local chieftain had a veto power in his district and could delay the implementation of many central orders indefinitely, unless a convenient tradeoff was negotiated.

In external politics, the Sultans in Egypt, and later in Istanbul, understood that, once an Emir from Mount Lebanon managed to unite its people, a united Mount Lebanon was to naturally expand into Syria and Palestine and prove to be a bothersome foe.

The formal strategy was that the best politics to maintaining the allegiance of the people in Mount Lebanon to the central authority was to divide the region into sectarian counties, which would insure the impossibility of uniting Mount Lebanon. 

Many foreign tribes from Iraq and the Caucasus were transplanted in the various districts of Mount Lebanon.  However, Maronite families, for economic reasons, infiltrated most of the districts as cheap land laborers “fallaheen” and settled in which would, eventually, cause dissents among the religious sects two centuries later, and lead to several civil wars.

After the first civil war in 1860, four European Nations claimed protection for their corresponding Christian sects: France for the Maronites, England for the Protestants and Anglicans, Russia for the Orthodox, and Austria for the remaining various Christian sects.

 Post note

Two years after Antoun’s martyrdom, a valuable manuscript was found in the cave where he was hiding and preparing for the second revolution.  The First Emir noted his grand plans for his new Republic; the first phase envisioned a federation of States in present Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine that could withstand a Tatar resumption of hostilities, along with strong support and cooperation with the power in Egypt under proper circumstances.  This federation could enjoy natural barrier borders except in the southern region with Egypt, unless part of the Sinai desert could be used as a buffer zone. 

The desert between Syria and Iraq would be inhabited with settlements designed to map out routes of possible invasions from Iraq or Turkey. The Zagros or Torus Mountains between Turkey and Syria and the Bakhtiar Mountains between Iraq and Iran were formidable natural barriers that could hamper any invasion from the North, given proper intelligence were supplied in due time.

The First Emir also suggested election of a President for the united federation for a six-year term and renewable for only another six years term. Each State would elect a Prime Minister and a State parliament and these parliaments would elect representatives to the Federated Senate that elect the President for the Union.

The whole region was under dominion of large Empires for long periods in history and it happened that a window of opportunity under a charismatic leader unified the people of Mount Lebanon for three decades, and proved that they were worth instituting a civil society that could influence positively the Greater Near East.

In fact the Levant managed to be unified twice more under the Emir Fakhr El Din of the Maan tribe in the seventeenth century, and Emir Beshir of the Shehab tribe in the nineteenth century during the Ottoman hegemony, and they naturally expanded their dominions to parts of Syria and Palestine.

There are many occasions in our land to celebrate Antoun.  Some of the Antouns have European spellings like Antoine, or Russian like Anton, or Latin as in Antonios or Greek like Antonionus or Manatios; some Antouns are Catholic Saints or other Christian denomination Saints, some call him by nicknames like Tony, Tanios or Tannus, but to our people there is a myth that a brave martyr, and a 14th century hero, by the name Antoun unified us and defeated obscurantism.

The next leader who will be successful in unifying us as a viable geopolitical power in a united demographic bloc in this century will be given the highest honorable title of Antoun

In self defense

Adal and his Levantine government had advanced intelligence of the main goals of this chastising military campaign and opted for a reduced resistance so as to shorten the duration of this inevitable calamity.  Families with children in the Metn County living in villages at altitudes less than 800 meters were evacuated to Cyprus and Greece.  The single able bodies of both genders were transferred to higher altitude and only the eldest population who refused to move from their locations was allowed to remain and care for the properties of the evacuees.  Most of the supplies in food and war necessities were transported to the highest altitudes and the routes to the Bekkaa Valley were monitored and defended.  

The warehouses in the port of Beirut were depleted and transferred to ports in the North.  To appease the inhabitants of Beirut the Levant government promised them that supplies would be secured by sea; by reducing the inventory of food and repair parts it was hoped that the army of the Sultan of Egypt would decide to shorten its campaign of rampage for shortage in necessary valuables. As a matter of facts, the sea attacks of the Levant Navy concentrated their activities to the Palestinian ports and supply lines coming from Egypt.  This strategy forced the Mameluk’s army to start foraging in Palestine raising several upheavals among the population and putting up sporadic resistance.

Asaad, the second son of Antoun was appointed army chief of the Metn region while Mustafa and Adal moved their headquarters to the Kesrouan and the Byblos mountain regions where the Mameluk’s General decided to concentrate his attacks of plunder and devastation.  Noura was still ambassador of the Levantine Republic to Italy in order to secure political and maritime support for the Republic.  Mariam was responsible for the organization of the logistics of the transferred population who had no relatives in the mountain regions but was plagued with family problems; her real daughter Sahar took the opportunity to vent her fears and her long held love-hate feelings and told her mother that she never appreciated her sincere struggle to please her and win her love. She told Mariam that her adoptive daughter Samar was allowed many privileges and independence of movement that was denied her out of lack of confidence in her.  Sahar demanded permission to travel overseas, was granted sufficient funds and never returned home

The knowledge of this Mameluk’s General of the fortifications and impregnable towns at altitude over 900 meters above sea level in the Metn region changed his plan of attack to concentrate mainly in the Kesrouan and Byblos Counties North of Mount Lebanon. The General set siege to Beirut with promise not to devastate it because it was a Moslem town and because this campaign was to punish the Christian infidels in Mount Lebanon who have been defying the authority of the Sultan of Egypt.

While encircling Beirut from the land because the sea was firmly out of his reaches, the General advanced toward Kesrouan and committed atrocities for 3 months without attempting to advance higher up to the mountains and then descended toward the Byblos County low lands.  He sent a messenger to Adal claiming that his mission could now be considered accomplished if he surrendered personally and was made prisoner along with Mustafa, otherwise the campaign would have to last for another year until the wishes of the Sultan are satisfied.  Mustafa and Adal had put up an excellent resistance and waited until the Mameluk’s General started his retreats toward the seashore to wage losing battles with the purpose of getting killed in battles and spare the other regions any more potential calamities.  The General satisfied his Sultan’s orders of ravaging many parts of Mount Lebanon and brought back to Cairo the heads of Mustafa and Adal who were killed in the battle field.

Chapter 19:  Martyrs of a Nation

The initial negotiations were for the Turkish Emir’s army to retreat to Lattakieh in Northern Syria and for Lebanon to pay tribute to the former Syrian lands it had in possession before the Turkish invasion. Lebanon agreed to pay tribute in return for the withdrawal of the Turkish army beyond the Zagros mountain chains and retained only Alexandrite.  It was implicitly understood that Lebanon would fail to pay a dime and Turkey would come back after building a fresh navy, may be in five years.  While the Turkish army was retreating toward Lattakieh, Lebanon sent an army into Syria and finished off the lost and demoralized Turkish contingent there. The resistance lingered for a while and sent a strong message to the invaders that a political compromise was an acceptable strategy for the time being.

The Nation underwent much turmoil but the spirit of democracy, equality under the law and freedom of expression set the tone for gradual reforms in most of the region. Meanwhile, President Antonios Lucas Fares was still suffering in Egypt severe humiliation and imprisonment for the last 3 years; the President of the Levant was decapitated in 1409 for the danger he represented to traditional and divinely inspired kingdoms.  

The Republic of the Levant could not recover from its previous war and there was such a defeatist sense that the big neighboring powers decided on its fate. The leader and soul of the Nation was imprisoned in Egypt and no alternate viable leader could be generated with enough vision and charisma to replace Antoun. 

In 1410, the Mameluk Sultan ordered a large army to ravage Mount Lebanon, with the mission to bring back the heads of the elected second President Adal, Antoun’s eldest son who was in his mid thirties, and the head of the Defense Minister Mustafa.  The election of Adal was for a transitional period of two years to continue the term of his father and prepare for another Legislative assembly.

The newly appointed Viceroy of Safad in Palestine was to lead the military campaign. This Viceroy was named Kamal Bey from Turkish descent and was a general in the Mameluk army and had intricate commercial dealings with the Republic of the Levant and intended on taking over some of the prosperous businesses. 

Rainbow over the Levant: Tamerlane hordes enter Damascus 

(A chapter in my novel Rainbow over the Levant)

Hordes from the North

In 140o, Tamerlane (Timor Lank) crushed the Ottoman Sultan forces and put the Sultan in a cage, and used the cage as a step to mount his horse. This newly Turkish Empire (with no naval forces) was enfeebled and the Byzantium Empire enjoyed a couple of decades freed from paying annual dues to its neighboring nemesis.

In the same time, the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt was regaining ascendancy after Tamerlane withdrew from Damascus in 1403. The Sultan of Egypt could demand favors from the new Sultan of Turkey and incited him to step in and crush the nascent Republic of the Levant in Lebanon.

In 1410, the Viceroy of Aleppo whose domain extended from Alexandretta, Lattakieh, and all the way eastward to the Jazyra (The northern part between the two great rivers of Euphrates and the Tiger) was still badly rattled after the destruction of Aleppo by Tamerlane and was thus in a serious predicament when the Ottoman army moved toward Syria.

The Viceroy knew that if the Turkish army crossed the Zagros mountain chains or managed to capture the port and city of Alexandretta then he would be done for.  His Emirate was inhabited by various Christian sects dating back to early Christianity such as Armenians, Assyrians, Syriacs as well as an amalgam of the more known and well recognized sects.

The Viceroy of Aleppo had received orders from his master the Mameluk’s Sultan to cooperate with the Turks in their coastal advance toward Lebanon, and thus he wavered with the Levant’s government and compromised to the end.

Ultimately, he agreed with the Republic of the Levant to acquire free reign in the port of Alexandretta for an annual tribute and have access to the Zagros Mountains if war were declared.

Most of the livestock were routed toward Jazyra with the long shot possibility that a famished army might redirect its route where there was more food close to the Tatar territory, and thus having to deal with another military force. It was a strategic gamble which might draw the Tatars of Timorlank to reorient their expansion toward Turkey after retreating from Damascus and Aleppo.

The Turkish army experienced desertion but it was not serious enough to divert it from its plan.

The Syrian Viceroy in Damascus got the hint that he was no longer appreciated in Cairo since his assistance was not required and no financial support was contemplated in this coming invasion.  He was also under pressure from Damascus merchants with close connection with the Levant Republic to support the Lebanese uprising for defense and unity.

The Lebanese army sent a detachment of war consultants to manage and direct the war from the Syrian front with intelligence confirming that the Turkish army was directing a two pronged attack toward both the Bekaa Valley and Tripoli. .

The Lebanese had excellent defensible positions around the city of Tripoli and access to the nearby mountains in the East and the sea to the West.  The strategy of the Levant army was to slow down the Turkish advance by putting up a defensive stand by the Awwaly River where the Turkish army was to split its forces after crossing the river.

The strategy of Turkish army was excellent because the narrow strip of land between the sea and the mountains would prevent large scale maneuvers for a 35,000 strong army while sending a large detachment to the Bekaa would have a dual purpose. The Levantine army would have to tie up a major part of its smaller forces in the Bekaa and in the same time the Turkish army would not be short on food reserves if the war dragged on.

The first defensive stand on the Awwali River was meant to prevent the Turkish army from sending a large detachment to the Bekaa by inflicting substantial losses on its advanced contingent around well defended positions.  Two defensive lines were prepared; one along the River and another one, well hidden in a sparsely dense forest and on the edge of a low hill, two kilometers away; a long ditch, 5 meters wide and 1, 50 meter deep was dug and fortified.

The first line of defense was for testing the maneuvering capabilities and military arsenal of the Turkish army in order to capitalize on the information to maneuver around the second defensive line, and also to nag the enemy into an angry and unprepared assault forward.

The soldiers of the first line of defense were feddayins because they were forewarned that no help would be forthcoming to save them if overwhelmed by the enemy forces.

Mustafa, the military leader of the Levant army, perched on his black stallion looked much older than he really was and suffering from back ache, felt in a victory mood before the young and determined faces in front of him.  The pain eased while delivering his harangue:

“Soldiers of the Great Levant Nation!  The enemy across this tiny river is a vigorous young army, coming from a rough region even harsher than our mountains.  Those soldiers are used to hardships and their goal is evident: looting Mount Lebanon. Our goal is different: resisting a savage invasion determined to ruin our prosperity and kill our families for money and valuables.  Our purpose is clear: frustrating the plans of the Sultan of Egypt to humiliate our spirit of independence and trample our hard earned liberty for a better life for our children. The Sultan of the Mameluks is testing our will to survive as a full fledge Nation; he thinks that by detaining our leader and President our Nation will crumble into nothingness.  We are here to prove to all nations that as free citizens we are born leaders and can generate leaders to defeat stronger nations if our freedom and liberty are threatened”.

“Soldiers of the free Levant Nation; the enemy across the Awwali River is determined not to retreat without its promised booty.  The Sultan of the Mameluks had lured them with stories of riches and precious prizes hidden in Mount Lebanon.  The treacherous Sultan of the Mameluks who forgot our loyalty for centuries has also forgot that we have been preparing ourselves to defend our way of life and that we are ready to pay the heavy price with our young and warm blood to hold on to every piece of land in our glorious Nation”.

“Soldiers of the haughty Levant Nation; we have no choice but to stop the Turkish army from advancing toward Mount Lebanon, the “Promised Land” by the Sultan of Egypt.  We will have to wage several battles because they are more numerous than us but we know the land and we have a higher determination to win.  The families of our martyrs will be remunerated handsomely and the names of the martyrs will be carried as badges of honors and remembered for centuries to come as valorous citizen-soldiers fighting for legitimate values and for safeguarding our self-determination over our destiny. Long live President Antoun!  Long live the Nation of the Levant!”

This defensive stand bore fruits; first, the cavalry of the Turkish army chasing the retreating defenders was decimated at the second defensive line where the Levant army was in waiting behind the well fortified ditch; and second, the contingent to be sent to the Bekaa Valley was reduced when the Turkish army realized that it would have to contend with a highly organized army.

Before the Levantine army retreated in an organized manner to Tripoli, preparing for the decisive second round of battles, it had buried its fallen soldiers in the ditch and planted trees in honor of their courage. All the injured were retrieved and evacuated in an efficient manner which impressed the enemy. In the mean time the expert consultants of the Levantine army, dispatched to organize war preparations of the army of the Viceroy of Damascus, managed to draw in a sizable contingent of the Turkish army toward the borders of Syria away from the Bekaa Valley and far from the main body of the Turkish army.

During that campaign of tactical retreat in the Syrian front, the Lebanese army was also tactically retreating toward the major coastal city of Tripoli.

At this critical junction the Maronite Patriarch in the northern district of Mount Lebanon announced an edict to all the Maronite Christians to immediately join the Army of the Republic.  The inhabitants of the villages in Bshare, Ehden and Zgorta were whipped in to frenzy and contributed greatly to victory.

The strong castle of Tripoli was the magnet that attracted the forward Turkish army to advance hastily without much planning. The Turkish forward contingent of 8,000 soldiers encircled Tripoli and set up its siege waiting for the heavy equipment of siege to arrive within a week with the main body of the army.

For four days and nights the Turkish army was harassed and could not enjoy any rest or sleep.  They were lured into attacking the Levantine army in their mountain strongholds and were repulsed with heavy casualties. On the fifth day and late afternoon, the Lebanese army descended from the mountains and cut off the forward Turkish army in two.

The Turkish army found itself totally encircled from all sides and from the sea.  The Lebanese army benefited from several advantages: an excellent knowledge of the terrain and a drastic edge in the contribution for reconnaissance and signaling intelligence from the citizens. The slaughter lasted till nine in the night and by day break the retreating Turkish soldiers were attacked by the Levantine cavalry from behind and made prisoners.

In that battle the Levant army introduced its Tortoise; it was a huge, elongated and enclosed cylindrical housing char, mounted on five pairs of wide wheels and driven by protected four pairs of cows and carrying a dozen archers.  This war device was slow and not that efficient at this stage of its development but, as a new monster entering battles, it impressed upon the enemy and destabilized their onslaughts wherever one of the few Tortoises appeared on the battle ground.

The Turkish army acknowledged the futility and the unacceptable losses in that campaign and released its siege on Tripoli. The lack of navy support and the determination of a well trained and well equipped army fighting with vengeance and courage were determinant in sending messengers for peace negotiations.

The Sultan famous host

Rainbow over the Levant (a novel)

Antoun, President of Mount Lebanon, drove in a modest caravan to Acre and boarded a Levantine navy ship to Alexandria where he was met by the dignitaries, the remaining personnel of the Levant Consulate and emigrants…

After two days of sight seeing in Alexandria, he headed out in a lush caravan to Cairo to meet the Sultan.

The Grand Vizier of Egypt welcomed him with the customary protocol and the President was made to wait a whole week for an appointment with the Sultan.  The President of the Levant offered his valuable gifts and presented to the Sultan the respect of the Levantine government and citizens and reminded him of his loyalty toward the maintaining of peace, security and prosperity throughout the Mameluke empire.  The Sultan accepted the gift with modest thanks, followed by immediate denouncement:

The Sultan: “We have been hearing disturbing news about your lack of loyalty to our authority.  We will allow the Grand Vizier to speak now”.

The Grand Vizier (GV): “We have been receiving very alarming reports for many years of your friendship with many infidel Monarchs and Princes.  As you surely know, His highness the Sultan and his forefathers have sacrificed dearly to defeat and chase out the infidel Crusaders from our lands.

We have been vigilant and swore to God Almighty never to permit the infidels to desecrate our Holy Lands again. You have been dealing with the infidels for more than 25 years and you graciously welcomed them to travel throughout our dominion with your full knowledge of how it displeased our Highness the Sultan of all Egypt, Syria and Palestine.

You fled like a rabbit before the barbarian Tatars, leaving our riches and interests to be captured and our Moslem believers at their mercy without any opposition to save our Majesty’s Honor and Dignity.

You have been gallivanting in the infidel’s kingdoms, eating their bread, salt and their dirty pork meat, drinking wine with total disrespect to our values, tradition and customs.

We have been very patient with your behavior and allegiances because you paid the requisite tributes on time and managed to establish peace in his Majesty’s kingdom with little financial recourse to our treasury, but we have run out of patience lately.  You have been killing and executing Moslem believers without due recourse to our religious legal system or the approval of the appointed Viceroys.

You have disturbed our governing system, proclaimed a heretical written Constitution against the well founded rules and laws of the Chariaa and the Holy Koran.

You went even as far as giving yourself a new title of President that His Majesty the Sultan loath from the bottom of his heart. We have every reason to suspect that you intended to part company with our cherished Sultan of all Egypt, Syria and Palestine.  Can you respond to these charges of treachery and disobedience?”

The President calmly retorted:

“For 25 years, not a single European army dared to set foot on our Holy Land from the confines of Turkey to Northern Africa and our honor is preserved.  His Highness knows perfectly well that had we had the means to fight the barbarian Tatars we would have fought them as lions and would have saved Aleppo and Damascus from the infamy of falling in the hands of Timorlank.

I chose a harsh exile from my homeland, including Egypt, to save our citizens from Timorlank wrath to carry out his threats of invading our lands as reported to me by Ibn Khaldoun the messenger.

I kept my part of the bargain and stayed away as long as Timorlank was in Damascus.  I don’t eat pork and don’t like wine; otherwise my people would be too drunk to keep the peace.

I delayed as much as I could to ratify the written Constitution, but public pressure, without your political support in that difficult period, forced my hands to signing a system of government that was not to my liking also.  I would be pleased if your Majesty deigned to mention the names of his counselors who dared to spread calumnies in his presence.”

The GV: “I humbly ask his Majesty to permit the deletion of the last infamous sentence of this long list of unfounded rejoinders.”

The Sultan: “It would be almost impossible to restrict the number of informers and advisers, since we have been listening to these charges for many years with accumulated validation.”

The President: “I empathize with your Majesty.  I have been surrounded also with many close counselors who said what they thought would please my ears and chased away from my presence the just and honest people who had valid claims and recriminations.”

The GV: “Your Majesty, it seems that this infidel Emir from Mount Lebanon is taking much liberty in your presence.”

The President: “Your Majesty, before the infamous invasion of the barbarous Tatars of Syria, Mount Lebanon enjoyed prosperous trade relations with mighty Egypt and every one was well off and praying for the long life of Your Majesty.  If these trade embargoes are lifted we certainly would have the means to save the integrity of His Majesty’s territory. We always have been straight in keeping our word and delivering on agreements as the Grand Vizier acknowledged.”

The Sultan: “We will be hearing more of you in the coming month.  You may dispose safely and in honor.”

The Sultan was biased to his close counselors who harshly denounced the President as an agitator to foreign powers and kept reminding the Sultan that he was the sole Emir in the Mameluk’s Empire who dared visit the kingdoms of the execrable European invaders. These couselors mercilessly hammered the fact that for two centuries the Crusaders desecrated the Moslems religious sites and prevented the Moslems going on pilgrimage (haj) to Jerusalem.

 A month later, the President was confined to a small villa.  The retinue of the President was drastically reduced and visitors had to be granted special permission from the Grand Vizier of Egypt.  Three months later, the President of the Levant was officially detained.

The government back home showed unanimous support for its leader and decided to put up an all out resistance to the aggressor coming from Turkey in honor of the new pride, freedom and self determination they had enjoyed for three decades.

A stand for Liberty: Rainbow over the Levant (fiction novel)

Part 6: Mustafa’s period (1405-1410)

Chapter 18: A stand for Liberty

A huge army coming from Turkey was preparing a devastating campaign of rampage and desolation in Mount Lebanon, because traditional chauvinism and sectarianism could not swallow the existence of a neighboring prosperous and enterprising small community. This Turkish army was composed of three tribes that recently immigrated from the Caucasus region of current Azerbaijan, Georgia, Chechnya… The tribes were fresh convert to Islam, the Sunni sect, and have settled in the Anatolia plateau, close to the sources of the Euphrates River. They could not fathom how a heretic State could be administered according to civic laws not based on the Islamic Chariaa…

News of the revolutionary spirit, unacceptable social values, and political system were very disturbing to the religious and monarchial systems surrounding the Republic.  The clerics and landlords of these kingdoms endeavored to fire up the populations in neighboring powerful countries.  President Antoun was certain that, if an armed resistance were opposed without a mass popular support to that invading force, Mount Lebanon would suffer for centuries to come.

The Lord President called for a convention of all political leaders and army officers. The regional leaders flocked to Beirut and convened for an entire week to expose the problems and share the facts of the new threats to the nation, and find consensus to differences in positions and to elect a new crisis government.   The President organized community meetings, and consistently admonished his people to make the right decision and never to consider his personal safety a factor in their decisions.

President Antoun told them in no uncertain terms that, once the enemy army was allowed to enter the Nation, it would never leave peacefully, and if the enemy was permitted to have a say in the internal political affairs, then the Nation would be in for demonic plans for fueling hatred and sectarian animosity among its citizens, leading to eventual civil wars for years to come.

During the pandemonium of war preparation, the President received an urgent message from the Mamluk’s Sultan summoning him to personally pay his respect to Cairo.  It was not a satisfactory timely summon for the President, but it was well planed by the Sultan to catch him in an anxious period with many opportunities.

The President wavered for long time into scheduling his trip, not because he was afraid of the chastisement awaiting him ,or the high possibility that he would not be permitted to come back, but because his daily routines were overpowering. The First Emir President realized that his bladder forced him to relieve himself every hour of the day, which sunk his spirit to its lowest levels.

Antoun has tried to go to bed early, but his bladder disrupted his sleep several times and ended up forming a group of late sleepers to entertain him until four in the morning.  Waking up at nine in the morning was the hardest task for the President; he felt that sleeping did not reinvigorate his energy supply, as if he failed to breath during his sleep.  After his mind woke up from its dreams, he would consciously practice forceful breathing sessions in bed to clear up his oppressed chest: He would form a fake large smile on his lips to awaken the muscles on his sunken face, and roll his closed eyes in all directions as prescribed by his personal eye doctor for his shortsightedness, and because his eyes would not open without internal will power.

He was still impressive in stature and not as bald as people of his age, but he knew that he was physically delicate and disintegrating faster than he hoped: he needed the best part of the morning for his body and mind to come alive and be ready to face people, head meetings, and the gruesome job of deciding on proposals and signing on documents.

The President of the Levant simply could not confront the young Sultan, all the formal State diplomatic lengthy schedules, procedures, and of visiting dignitaries in his precarious state, or disturb his familiar environment and daily routines.

The date of the visit was finally scheduled for him by the Sultan and the President reluctantly decided to accept the dangerous invitation of the Sultan of Egypt, hoping against all odds to negotiate a satisfactory deal for terms he knew in advance will be denied. The First Emir President figured that at least his Nation might gain a reprieve of valuable time for a possible changing political climate. In any event, he believed that popular support for costly resistance had a higher chance of success if he were detained by the Sultan.

Before leaving for Cairo, the President wrote his testimony to be read in due time and which said:  “To the people of the Levant and the legal government.  My last wish is to consider any agreement with the Sultan, while I am detained in Egypt, as null and void.  You all need to understand that an agreement signed by a non free man is necessarily made under duress and unfair cunning.  The President of this free Nation is not about to deliver any lands of the Republic of the Levant or the rights gained through years of struggle to any foreign power.  We did not invest all these energies and forbearing periods so that a Pasha from Egypt reap the prosperous sate of affair and engage in dilapidating our hard-earned struggle for self-autonomy.  If I return within 2 months, God is Great, if not, I order you to unite and prepare for hard times.  The free and independent citizen of the Republic of the Levant will shoulder their duties as they have done for 3 decades against all odds.  I have great confidence in Mustafa Baltagy, your Defense Minister, and I appoint him as my Viceroy for the duration of my absence.  Long live the Republic of the Levant and its valorous citizens”.

The President had ordered Mustafa back from Tunisia because he considered him the most able to unite the Nation in an armed conflict in his absence, and because his return might satisfy the Sultan’s wishes and helped his case.


Gergis had been in Italy for six months when he was ambushed on a trip to Florence and killed with his secretary and coach driver.  Investigations did not reveal the perpetrators but Noura received an anonymous letter two weeks too late warning her to use all her skills of persuasion to get Gergis to stay put in his villa and refrain from any travels until further information.  Noura established a foundation in Gergis’ name for a students’ exchange between Rome and the Levant with all expenses paid for a year.  The Italian students were to have learned Arabic for two years in her language institution in Rome and the Levantine students would already have been familiar with Latin. 

Mustafa stayed 2 years in Tunisia and traveled to Algeria and Morocco drumming up support and raising an army to harass the Sultan of Egypt in due time. The Mameluk Sultan got word of Mustafa activities and sent under cover agents to North Africa to take note of Mustafa’s every movement, and he increased his diplomatic missions to the City-State Emirs wooing them for greater cooperation or threatening them if necessary to desist in facilitating Mustafa’s mission.  A Levantine double agent who served in Cairo for two years was uncovered in Beirut for transmitting intelligence information on Mustafa’s activities.

            The Sultan of Egypt opened secret negotiations with the President of the Levant planning to win on both scoreboards; he would weaken both the Turks and the Levant in a protracted war while averting Mustafa’s threat in Tunisia. The terms of the negotiations were that Egypt would refrain from any maritime support to the Turks, would reopen trade routes to the Levant on condition that Mustafa be recalled and more importantly that the President and his whole family pay the Mameluk Sultan an official visit to Cairo to finalize the protocol of agreements.

In the mean time, the Republic of the Levant underwent a sorry period of dictatorship.  The spirit of the new militants was uncompromising; the new generation was not educated enough on the historical struggle of the elder leaders who sacrificed the best years of their lives in order to establish a united and equitable society against all odds.  The perennial philosophy of just ends should circumvent ruthless means was accepted as a normal and justified attitude among the youth, especially in time of danger when unity of the mind in a nation and under the vision of an all encompassing leader was of paramount necessity. 

The President was already in his sixties and lacked the energy of the youth’s self confidence to inspire respect for authority so that he felt unable for a while to counter this wave of extremism and preferred to wait for this new zeal to spend itself out and the trend of intolerance to wane before redirecting the energy of the new generation.

The opportunistic instinct for holding on to power inspired the President to redirect the energy of the zealots toward targeted representatives who challenged his earthly authority and were puzzled about the increase of public stone statutes for the Leader, or warned the Nation that the political system was in fact heading to an inherited Monarchy or the deification of the Leader.  Arrests on charges of conniving with the enemy or betraying the Constitution of the Republic were common currency.

The detainees were harassed into retracting from their political positions under duress if necessary and confessing their wrong doings in public trials. Those political opposition leaders who persisted in their opinions were secretly eliminated or died in accidents. Two years of violence and mock trials against the so-called internal enemies of the revolution mowed down many innocents under flimsy charges and set the stage for fear and injustice that had been under control for decades. 

Intelligence reports stated that the Sultan of Egypt was unable to forgive the President for deserting his duties as a servant for the Sultan during Timorlank invasion of Syria and would not rest until vengeance was excised on him, his family and close associates. Since the Mameluk of Egypt was in no position to gamble on a military campaign that could not be backed by the approval of the Syrian population then he looked toward a far distance foe for quashing his thirst for vengeance. More details were forthcoming that the Mameluk Sultan was secretly conniving with a Great Emir in Turkey from the Othman tribe in a deal to relinquish part of North Syria in return for the Turkish Emir to launch a military campaign deep in Mount Lebanon.

In fact, a new nation was being established in central Turkey led by the powerful tribe of Othman, a branch from the tribe that had generated the dynasty of the Seljuk in the 11th century.  This Turkish nation was expanding slowly but steadily throughout Western Turkey and would eventually conquer Constantinople in the end of the 15th century. This infamous deal with the Mameluk of Egypt was to open the gate, a century later, to directing the Ottoman expansion South toward Syria and would ultimately enter Cairo in 1517 and end the Mameluks’ Empire in the Near East with two decisive military battles.

It was the advancing foreign armies in the North that provided the leverage for the President of the Levant to put a brake on that reckless state of affairs and regain the spirit of unity against the invaders as a priority for the Republic.

A President for the Levant

The First Emir decided that it was time to adopt a written Constitution and elect a President for the Levant Nation to give a particular character of independence and self determination for the Levant.  The first draft of the Constitution suggested by Gergis three years ago was dusted off and restudied with a sense of urgency.  It was slightly modified because the First Emir refused any abridgement on his executive powers and a negotiated draft was accepted that allowed the current Chief to maintain his full executive authority for the first five years as an interim period and the drastic language for change was toned down.  One article in the Constitution was added concerning the electoral system which insisted that the candidates should be able to read and write in the language of the land which was agreed to be the Arabic language. This article was intended to affirm the Arabic characteristic of the new Republic and to bring in new blood with potential to learn and understand the changing social and political structures. Thus, every candidate was submitted to the test of reading, listening to the petition of a citizen and transcribing the petition in correct and legible hand writing.

The modified and adopted Constitution had a prime objective to unify the new country with decentralized administrations that would cater to the immediate and routine needs of the population.  This expanded Nation was officially named The Republic of the Levant and Antoun was unanimously elected as its first President for a ten-year term. His countrymen still called him Chief Emir or First Emir among the Emirs but the foreign dignitaries called him The Grand Emir for a while until the titled “Your Honorable President” became more common and accepted by the foreign delegates.

The President was reluctant to impose his opinions during the meeting of the government members and ruled that any vote on any article that exceeded the majority by 2 members would pass.  He however retained the right for the President to veto any article that he deemed harmful to the unity of the nation until discussions with various parties were undertaken but he scarcely had need to veto any resolution.

Many old timers were removed from their responsibilities and younger officers were promoted.  Discipline in the army and internal security forces was rigorously pursued and the spirit of the army of the people was rekindled.

The President of the Republic grabbed this opportunity to direct a few of these alleged charges against potential foes who grew popular and gathered strength regardless of their adherence to the political lines.  Although the President still enjoyed leadership under the Constitutional mandate he secretly harbored a desire for his elder son to succeed him in due time with minimal opposition.  Another serious reason to suspend the authority of some of his closer counselors was that the President felt a wind of extremism sweeping the Levantine citizens and feared for them to pay an extreme price. To that end, the President sent Gergis to Europe as his ambassador to drum up some financial and maritime support and expedited Mustafa to North Africa to manage the trading ports and possibly foment rebellions against the Mameluks and eventually raise an army to threaten Egypt from the West. 

It was well known that those who achieve the most commit the most mistakes, so Gergis and Mustafa, being no dupes nor naïve in politics, realized that at this junction they were more of a liability to the President because they would be the prime targets for mismanagement and financial mishandling innuendoes. The rationale for relieving them from duty in the central government was essentially valid under the pressure of the better learned and excited new generation of service officers. The President had now to rely on the second generation of counselors with the exception of Mariam who was effectively leading the reform movement and was no help in restraining the spirit of the Nation toward dialogue and unity on the basis of diversity in freedom of beliefs and liberty of choices.

Why Israel went to war in 2006? (October 18, 2008)

I have been reading “Israel in state of chock” by Frederic Pons and many other manuscripts on the subject. Even the Winograd report and the other two reports didn’t dare state directly or clearly why Israel went to war in July 12, 2006; maybe the full reports did but were not released to the general public.

The way I see the big picture of the main reason Israel went to war against Hezbollah in July 2006 is that this war was not based on any strategic gain neither politically nor militarily at the time; there are indications that the Bush Administration and Chief of Staff Haloutz were readying a full scale war around September.  The crux of the matter was that many ministers in the Olmert Administrations were seriously implicated judiciary for financial and moral wrong doings and they hoped that a striking military victory, in this golden opportunity offered to them, would restore their political credibility or at least restrain the legal procedures raised in their cases.

For example, Ehud Olmert was already facing investigation for financial conflict of interest, the Justice Minister Haim Ramon was indicted of sexual harassment, the President Moshe Katsav was investigated for cases of rape, the minister of finance Avraham Hirschon accepted dubious transfer of funds destined to the syndicate Histadrout and the Chief of Staff Halouz wanted to make profit by selling his judiciously invested stock shares before the announcement of war. To exacerbate matters, the Defense minister Amir Peretz was totally ignorant in military affairs and didn’t do his military service too and Haloutz and his inner circle of officers had already a detailed plan for air strikes in coordination with the US air command; Haloutz wanted “his war” and to prove the superiority of his strategy relying solely on air power; and mostly to make lots of profit with his closest allies in the military industrial complex for the replenishment of the military arsenal. Thus, the restricted war group of seven ministers didn’t include ministers of expertise in military matters such as Shaul Mofaz or Benjamin Ben Eliezer or the minister of the interior that could contribute in their opinions and would ultimately be most directly implicated in war and its aftermath such as the minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni.

The military in Israel was not “prepared” or ready for war simply because society and the younger generations had other more urgent difficulties to worry about.  More than 25% of the eligible individuals to be drafted for their 3 years term avoided the call for military service, especially the most educated and living in large cities and the ultra-orthodox Israelites.  The reservists had made it a habit to skip their 40-day service per year because of lax regulations on account that the army wanted to save on its budget.  The so-called Home Front was totally neglected and no resources were allocated to social services or to improve conditions for any long term war situation. More than 2 million Israelites fled the areas targeted by katyousha rockets and the elderly and poor fresh immigrants from Ethiopia and Belarusian were left out without any government support for 33 days.

Israel used to hammer the concept that the “Arabs” do not read Israel’s newspapers; otherwise its “democratic” free press would have divulged the intentions of Israel against the Arab States.  Nowadays, it seems that the former generations in Israel failed to read the manuscripts of their Founding Fathers; if they did they would have discovered that Hertzel, Wiseman, Sassoon and others had made deals with the colonial powers of Britain and France to settle the Jews in Palestine and in return to play cops and keep the Near East States, after their independence, divided and preventing this important geo-political region from uniting.

Britain wanted to save on any tax impositions on her commerce with India and to keep the flow of goods cheap at any circumstances.  The colonial powers had this strategy from the 17th century. The USA was glad of this arrangement to keep the flow of oil at a ridiculously low price.  Israel participated in the Suez invasion of 1956 along side Britain and France to satisfy its part of the deal and because France has offered Israel its first nuclear reactor.  Israel has over 300 nuclear head bombs; why so many and for what purpose if it is not to be launched far away from its tiny borders?

If the former generations in Israel were voracious readers they would have packed and left this dangerous area long time ago. The mothers and fathers of the fallen Israeli soldiers and civilians would not have to mourn their deaths in over five offensive wars for a chimerical objective.  I think that the times have changed and only those mercenaries happy to resume their favorite hobby of soldiers and sergeants would remain in Israel within this decade. It is hoped that the new Israeli generation is reading at the sources and would not wait any longer for this masquerade of their military industrial complex to abuse of their naïve fundamental religious beliefs.




October 2008

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